Thursday, September 05, 2013

Sakman Chamorro

Sakman Chamorro Project to take journey to the past

WITH a nine-man all-Chamorro crew, an outrigger canoe built in San Diego will set sail on the first week of January 2016 and take a 40-day and 40-night journey to a native past.

Master Carver Mario Borja said the 47-foot-long sakman, christened “Che’lu,” will travel 7,600 nautical miles from San Diego, to Acapulco, to the Marshall Islands, and finally to Guam.

“We are looking for a meaningful expedition,” Borja said in an interview after his presentation of the Sakman Chamorro Project before the Rotary Club of Northern Guam, during the group’s meeting yesterday at the Hyatt Regency Guam.

While the idea of taking the Hawaii route “sounds very nice,” Borja said, the navigating group is not keen on doing a luau.

He said the canoe will be following the Spanish Galleon route and take the first port stop in Acapulco to retrace the roots of possible ancestors with common local last names.

“Many of our people, for example, with the last names Flores, Borja and Santos probably came off the ship that started from Acapulco and ended in the Marianas and the Philippines,” Borja said. “More than likely, they did, so it would be a revisit of that route.”

Che'lu is expected to reach Guam in time for the celebration of the 2016 Festival of the Pacific Arts.

First journey

The Sakman Chamorro Project was initiated in 2009 by San Diego-based Chamorros, who built the sailing canoe based on the 1742 drawings by Sir George Anson.

The search for the right wood led the crew to a forest in Mendocino, Calif., allowing them to begin the canoe’s construction in March 2010. The project was completed in March 2011.

According to the Guam Visitors Bureau, Che’lu set sail for the first time on Aug. 26, 2011, proving seaworthy while traveling through San Diego Bay.

Journey home

Embarking on a long journey home for the first time, Che’lu will have nine Chamorro crewmembers on board, whom Borja jokingly referred to as “the nine crazies.”

“We are proven crazies. We’re going to leave the security of land and embark on a vessel,” Borja told Rotarians.

He said the three-level canoe will contain life-sustaining provisions including lots of water and food items that can go a long way, such as Spam, tatiyas, and fish from the ocean.

‘Crazies but no fools’

When asked if the crew will be using a Global Positioning System, Borja replied in jest, “We’re crazies, but not fools.”

Although the crew will try to adopt ancestral Chamorros’ traditional navigation system, Borja acknowledged the necessity of bringing a modern tracking system since none of them is an experienced sea navigator.

“Building a canoe does not make you a sailor,” Borja said. “We will use GPS, maybe as a last resort.”

The crewmembers are going through some training and doing research in preparation for the ocean trip.

“But all literature that we can find are written with respect to the modern sailing vessels and not outrigger,” Borja said. “So when you have to look at what is already available and apply that to the outrigger canoe, you have to change orientation.”

The crew will take safety measures and the canoe will be equipped with safety devices such as life vests, Borja said. “We are going to have a sister ship following us because we are not going to jeopardize life or limb on this journey even though it’s meaningful for us.”

On board the sister ship is a crew from California Public Broadcasting, which has volunteered to document the expedition.

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